gerard

Assistant Professor
Department of Sociology
Columbia University

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gerard.torrats@columbia.edu

I am an Assistant Professor in Sociology at Columbia University and a member of the Data Science Institute. I use causal inference and machine learning methods to conduct research on urban inequality, violence, and public health. My work has been published in the American Sociological Review, Child Development, Demography, the Journal of Urban Economics, and the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, among other peer-reviewed journals. Findings from my research have been featured in The New York Times, The Washington Post, and Bloomberg. I received my PhD in Sociology from New York University in 2019, a Master’s in Public Policy from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government in 2014, and a BS in Engineering from the Polytechnic University of Catalonia in 2004. Before graduate school, I was a firefighter at Barcelona Fire Department from 2007 to 2011. In my free time, I enjoy running, cycling, and hiking.

 

News and Updates

• 10-2021: The study “The EmpaTeach Intervention for Reducing Physical Violence from Teachers to Students in Nyarugusu Refugee Camp: A Cluster-Randomised Controlled Trial,” co-authored with researchers from the Behavioral Insights Team, the International Rescue Committee, and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, has been published in PLoS Medicine.
• 02-2021: My article “Using Machine Learning to Estimate the Effect of Racial Segregation on COVID-19 Mortality in the United States” has been published at the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
• 07-2020: I started as an Assistant Professor in Sociology at Columbia University.
• 01-2020: My article “Crime and Inequality in Academic Achievement Across School Districts in the United States” has been published in Demography.
• 07-2019: I started as a postdoctoral researcher at Columbia University’s Data Science Institute.

Recent Publications

PLoS Medicine, 2021 (with Camilla Fabbri, Katherine Rodrigues, Baptiste Leurent, Elizabeth Allen, Mary Qiu, Martin Zuakulu, Dennis Nombo, Michael Kaemingk, Alexandra De Filippo, Elizabeth Shayo, Vivien Barongo, Giulia Greco, Wietse Tol, and Karen M. Devries)

School-based violence prevention interventions offer enormous potential to reduce children’s experience of violence perpetrated by teachers, but few have been rigorously evaluated globally and, to the best of our knowledge, none in humanitarian settings. We tested whether the EmpaTeach intervention could reduce physical violence from teachers to students in Nyarugusu Refugee Camp, Tanzania. We conducted a 2-arm cluster-randomised controlled trial with parallel assignment. A complete sample of …
This study examines the role that racial residential segregation has played in shaping the spread of the novel coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) in the US as of September 30, 2020. The analysis focuses on the effects of racial residential segregation on mortality and infection rates for the overall population and on racial and ethnic mortality gaps. To account for potential confounding, I assemble a data set that includes 50 county-level factors that are potentially related to residential …
This study investigates the effect of violent crime on school district–level achievement in English language arts (ELA) and mathematics. The research design exploits variation in achievement and violent crime across 813 school districts in the United States and seven birth cohorts of children born between 1996 and 2002. The identification strategy leverages exogenous shocks to crime rates arising from the availability of federal funds to hire police officers in the local police departments where …

Eastern Economic Journal, 2020 (with Ingrid Ellen)

Using restricted administrative data on the voucher program, we examine the experience of voucher holders in metropolitan areas with rising rents. While some of our models suggest that rising rents in metropolitan areas are associated with a slight increase in rent-to-income ratios among voucher holders, poor renters in general see significantly larger increases in rent-to-income ratios. We see little evidence that rising rents push voucher holders to worse neighborhoods, with voucher holders in …
The housing choice voucher program aims to reduce housing cost burdens as well as to enable recipients to move to a broader diversity of neighborhoods. Prior evidence shows voucher recipients still end up in neighborhoods with relatively high poverty rates and low performing schools. These constrained neighborhood choices can in part be attributed to landlord discrimination and the geographic concentration of units that rent below voucher caps. In this paper, we consider an additional …
On the 50th anniversary of the Fair Housing Act, long-time residents of cities across the country feel increasingly anxious that they will be priced out of their homes and communities, as growing numbers of higher-income, college-educated households opt for downtown neighborhoods. These fears are particularly acute among black and Latino residents. Yet when looking through the lens of fair housing, gentrification also offers a potential opportunity, as the moves that higher-income, white …

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2018 (with Laia Balcells)

This study investigates the consequences of terrorist attacks for political behavior by leveraging a natural experiment in Spain. We study eight attacks against civilians, members of the military, and police officers perpetrated between 1989 and 1997 by Euskadi Ta Askatasuna (ETA), a Basque terrorist organization that was active between 1958 and 2011. We use nationally and regionally representative surveys that were being fielded when the attacks occurred to estimate the causal effect of …

Child Development, 2018 (with Jennifer Heissel, Patrick Sharkey, Kathryn Grant, and Emma Adam)

The data combine objectively measured sleep and thrice‐daily salivary cortisol collected from a 4‐day diary study in a large Midwestern city with location data on all violent crimes recorded during the same time period for N = 82 children. The primary empirical strategy uses a within‐person design to measure the change in sleep and cortisol from the person’s typical pattern on the night/day immediately following a local violent crime. On the night following a violent crime, children have …

American Sociological Review, 2017 (with Patrick Sharkey and Delaram Takyar)

Largely overlooked in the theoretical and empirical literature on the crime decline is a long tradition of research in criminology and urban sociology that considers how violence is regulated through informal sources of social control arising from residents and organizations internal to communities. In this article, we incorporate the “systemic” model of community life into debates on the U.S. crime drop, and we focus on the role that local nonprofit organizations played in the national decline …